A Goodbye

I have news. Only in the fullness of time will it become apparent if it is good news or bad news. I am leaving CALM and Year of the Male. I have been volunteering here for just over three years however a recent exacerbation of my chronic shoulder pain was a reminder that my current job is unsustainable. So I’m leaving the entirely sustainable volunteering that I enjoy with the hopes that it that the additional free time will help me sort myself out. So today I’m going to be self-indulgent and look back at the things I’ve written about for Year of the Male.

One of the big aspects the Year of the Male has been examining why men don’t seek help. Men feel that they should be able to help themselves; this is part of why some men are hesitant to visit the GP. This is recurring theme, a strong belief in traditional male gender roles makes men less likely to seek help and men are still taught those gender roles: Big boys don’t cry, they are strong and stoic or so popular culture tells us.

On learning this it is possible to think there is nothing we can do without changing men: they won’t seek help so we can’t help them. This, of course, is nonsense. Men like reciprocity, to help those who help them, which is why Men’s Sheds are awesome. I’ve also seen a wonderful example by Healthwatch Blackburn and Darwen who decided they wanted to speak to more men and just went ahead and did it. They went to cafes, pubs and fast food joints and spoke to men who they would have never met without being proactive.

Knowing that you can reach men; makes learning about suicide even more tragic. 42% of men have thought of killing themselves and 41% of them have never spoken to anyone about it. Study of male suicide is still in infancy so nobody really knows why men account for three quarters of suicides. There are ideas: men are bigger risk takers, more likely to turn to drugs or alcohol and have less social support. However these aren’t fully understood which makes it harder to offer the right kind of help.

I have often emphasised that men are emotional beings. One of my favourite stories I’ve written about is an oil rig that emphasised emotional openness and got the men who worked their comfortable enough that they could talk honestly about how they were feeling. Critically from the oil rig’s perspective this meant the men were comfortable enough to admit if they didn’t know how to do something and own their mistakes. The result was accidents down and happiness and profits up.

My least favourite one is the continued gender swapping that goes on in the CPS. Their yearly “Violence against Women and Girls Crime Report” incudes figures for all the crimes you would expect like: rape, domestic violence and trafficking. The problem is that the victims include men and boys. At the CPS it is ok to label a man who is raped as a woman. This makes support harder to find and skews public perceptions. The report does have a disclaimer on the front cover but this is far from enough.

I’ve learnt about body image issues, written a defence of middle aged men in Lycra, covered obesity, education, gambling, unemployment, the effect of toys and even a party for men with small penises.  Despite this, the thing that has been most surprising for me is how often I’ve written about gay men. Divorced from my own experiences and with vocal proponents I had not expected them to resonate with the Year of the Male’s broader themes. It turns out that they are one of the clearest examples. Men have their emotions repressed by cultural forces for gay men this was taken to extremes with their love criminalised until relatively recently. 

When I was asked to start writing for Year of the Male it was a surprise. I’d never seen myself as writer and I’m dyslexic to boot. I don’t know why they asked me and I don’t know why I said yes. It has been a blast though. Now I believe I can write (still can’t spell though). I think I could keep doing this forever but as I said my current job is unsustainable and my efforts to trade it in have so far failed.

So I’m trying to claim back some time to spend on the job hunt, manage my “to do” list and have some fun. With bills and more importantly walking holidays to pay for leaving my paying job is a risk I’m not willing to take so CALM is the thing to go. You may still hear from me,  the guys and gals of CALM seem keen to keep in contact so I might still write for you from time to time but it will be without frequency or schedule.

There are two more things I’d like to do. The first is to recommend volunteering with CALM completely. They are a great bunch of people and while CALM is growing it is still a small charity that punches well above its weight so your help will make a difference.

The second is more difficult. I’m going to do what I say men should: be emotionally open. I’m scared right now. I’ve taken the decision to stop doing something I enjoy in order to something that I don’t know if I will actually do. I have been trying to find new work for quite a while now. I have failed. I’m not sure that the additional free time will lead to me changing that. I’m sad to be leaving and fear my life will be that little bit lonelier.

I’m excited too. I haven’t had a reliable two days off in a row for three years now. Having a weekend again (even if it is on Wednesday and Thursday) offers up possibilities. I just have to make sure I claim them.

In truth I don’t know what this means for the Year of the Male, you will have to stay tune to see what CALM has in store.

Right then, I’ll be off. Got a train to catch and it seems someone has started cutting onions. Why else would there be water in my eyes? Until I see you again, farewell.

Photo by deargdoom57 originally found on Flickr used under creative common licence